Before we left California, I did one final sales trip for my previous winery. It was a week long and we were really doing well in the market. People loved the wines. They commented on the flavors and the value. They were impressed with the work, care, and dedication that went into making each blend once I was able to describe each step of our winemaking and blending process. I even heard sales people that were working beside me starting to adopt the story of the wines, not just pouring them. From my view, it was going very well.
Then it happened…
A score came out…
92 from the area’s top critic.
The salespeople were, of course, ecstatic.
I was excited as well. It’s always exciting when someone likes your wines enough to give them a high score and write about them. I don’t care who you are or where you fall on the 100 point debate. Maybe you love or hate certain critics? Maybe you think the day of major wine critics are over or if you think they will have influence forever? Regardless of all of this, if you are a winemaker, you want people to like your wines. A high score is validation that you have done a good enough job to have someone notice and single it out. As a winemaker who hovers around in the low 90s for a score average, I know how exciting a higher than average score can be.
There is a downside however.
As soon as the score came out, the story shifted from the actual story behind the wine to quoting the critic’s score. Granted, this could be because I had different people with me every day and maybe these new folks weren’t as well acquainted with the story as those who had stood by my side listening to me repeat my winemaking for several hours. I am certain they didn’t even realize the shift. The customers were impressed but at that point I worried that they forget the story behind the wine and only remember the score. Other consumers though, didn’t know what the score meant. Others just walked away after that. We missed a critical opportunity to connect and inspire customers with our story.
So I have a request to all wine sales people and wine merchants. I don’t mind you telling people the score. I would probably tell the score myself to the right customer. Just don’t let it be your lead punch. Tell the story of the land, the people behind the wines and the care they put into each bottle, the significance of the label design, the time taken to make sure everything is perfect for them, and after all that and ONLY after all that, then bring out the score.
There is too much that goes into each bottle to distill that hard work and passion down to a score and have the average consumer understand what that means.